Smallbones, The Signpost'
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Getting serious about humor

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By Smallbones

The humour column in our February issue was controversial, with lengthy discussions ensuing at Miscellany for deletion, ANI, ArbCom, and other forums. As a result the humour page was blanked but not deleted. We were saddened that our acting editor-in-chief and two other contributors subsequently left The Signpost of their own volition.

The column's headline was “Pesky pronouns”, but was about non-neutral writing of several kinds. The column was originally written by SMcCandlish, one of Wikipedia's most productive and thoughtful editors, on a user page. With his consent we reprinted it in last month's Signpost. Some readers interpreted the pronoun-related material as an attack against the transgender community. We do not believe that any Signpost editor or contributor intended to attack the transgender community, but we also do not believe that our readers were wrong to complain about the column.

Rather, we believe that we can now use this controversy as an opportunity to inform all of our readers and staff about violence and discrimination against the transgender community and how we can all work to prevent it in our lives and online. The special report by Bluerasberry is one step towards this goal.

An apology

We apologize to all our readers who were offended by the column. As Wikipedia's internal newspaper for the community, The Signpost must be more sensitive to potential offense or insult among our diverse readership. In hindsight, we should not have published the column.

We pledge that we will never attack or mock any group whose members include those who do not have a choice about their membership in the group. Groups covered by this pledge include, but are not limited to, those based on race, nationality, sex, gender, age, disability, social or economic status, veteran status, body type, or religion.

Is it even possible to write humor that doesn't ever mock these groups? Of course it is! An excellent example is in this issue's humour column, The Epistolary of Arthur 37.

Farewells, not goodbyes

We are sad to see the departure of three contributors from The Signpost. Bri and Kudpung saved this publication a year ago after the unannounced departure of its then editor-in-chief and a hiatus in publishing. We will be grateful for as long as there is a Signpost—which we expect to be a long time. Also departing is Barbara (WVS), our long-time humour columnist who has been as funny and good-humoured as her columns.

We're sorry that contributors to The Signpost sometimes are subject to such storm and fury.

A personal note

You might know me as Smallbones, and perhaps even know something of my work about paid editing, or seen some of my photos of sites on the National Register of Historic Places. I'm The Signpost's new editor-in-chief.

I'll try not to overwhelm you with my two favorite topics—not everybody has the same interests I do. The best way to counter the problem of the EiC's interests dominating The Signpost is to submit your own articles on your own favorite topics, or just drop us a suggestion on a topic that interests you on our suggestion page.

An important part of the EiC job is to ensure that The Signpost follows Wikipedia's rules and to read every word in every article to make sure violations of our policies and guidelines do not happen. If you believe there is a violation, please politely inform us on the article's talk page. I'll take every such report seriously, even if I disagree with you. If there is no satisfactory response, please email me directly and I'll try my best to make sure that any violations are corrected. This promise is not a guarantee that I'll take the actions you request. I will not censor a contributor's opinion simply because you disagree with it.

All Wikipedia users have the right to take any further complaints to the Administrators' noticeboard for incidents or the arbitration committee, but please remember that your complaint will be against me, since I am in charge of compliance with Wikipedia's rules, and not against our writers, staff or other contributors.


In this issue
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I'm sorry about the controversy and the departure of the editors. However, so much of humor depends on delivery and intonation. You don't have that in the written word. Writing humor is almost an entirely different set of principles. That's why, unless you're someone like P.G. Wodehouse or Steve Martin, don't even try to write extended humor because most people can't convey it. Similarly lots of sarcasm is problematic because the signals are not there, many take it to be true. Save the humor for 1- or 2-lines and be serious - so you can be taken seriously. - kosboot (talk) 15:21, 31 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you, Smallbones, for stepping up. Long live The Signpost! Benjamin (talk) 15:24, 31 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It appears that's my bad for responding to Fæ in a failed attempt to point out what I perceived as serious weaknesses in Fæ's perspective. Tried to do it in a way that would help; however, it seems I just made things a bit worse. Deep apologies to Fæ and to any and all other editors and readers whose hatred was sparked by my words. Heaven knows, I much prefer to spark the other side of the "thin line". Paine Ellsworth, ed.  put'r there  02:02, 9 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@: I can only say that I promise my best efforts to keep the pledge as long as I am EiC, but I think that future editors would be making a big mistake if they also didn't keep the pledge. There's not now enough organizational structure at The Signpost to guarantee what future EiCs will do - it's just a bunch of folks showing up to do some hard work for no pay, and amazingly enough something good results. I'd like to see, at least, the editorial board formalized with some contingency or continuity planning done.
I'm not going to search the past histories of contributors to see if they pass a morality or ethics test. For one thing, it would be just too much work. It would be better handled by en:Wiki's regular processes involving admins and arbcom - but, of course, en:Wiki does not have any rules about discrimination against minorities or protected classes. My job, for now is just to make sure that insensitive, discriminatory, or harassing material is not included in The Signpost (plus making sure that we conform to all other Wikipedia rules, e.g. BLP).
But Ɱ, if you're talking about what en:Wiki should do about not having an anti-discrimination policy, please just post some info about your proposed op-ed in the Newsroom asap, and be ready with a good draft by about April 20th. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:21, 31 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree that that this should be handled by community processes, perhaps under a forthcoming nondiscrimination policy, similar to any other conduct issue. The Signpost EIC lacks the authority to write policy or issue topic bans, and they shouldn't be placed in the unenviable position of deciding what is and isn't a violation.
Looking at the bigger picture, I think the Signpost would benefit from more community input and decision-making. The community, not the self-appointed editorial team, should be making decisions about editorial standards and which articles are fit to publish. This would take a lot of pressure off of the EIC and possibly help with the rapid turnover. –dlthewave 21:57, 31 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Generally speaking, projects work best when those investing time and effort into the project's tasks are empowered to make decisions about the project. It would be demotivating for editorial decisions to be made by community members that are otherwise uninvolved in the Signpost. isaacl (talk) 01:56, 1 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's only true to a certain extent. Participants and coordinators generally set up the project's internal organizational structure, but they have no control over content decisions. Many of our community processes, such as RFCs, are specifically designed to solicit input from the wider community even though only a small group will do the work of implementing the outcome. The Signpost should be no exception: If it is to be presented as a community newspaper, its content should be controlled by the community at large, not just the editorial team and EIC. This would be a WP:OWN violation anywhere else on Wikipedia.
It's very odd that Wikipedia's internal newspaper attempts to emulate the management structure of a traditional media organization. –dlthewave 03:21, 1 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, I did say "generally" to avoid going into too many details, which are probably better discussed in another venue. But to expand further: some projects willingly delegate responsibilities to specific persons; others are expressly implementing community decisions. The key aspect though is the project itself decides how it wants to run, because volunteers choose what contributions they want to make and under what conditions. The Signpost has no special protected status to be the community's only outlet for internal news and opinions, so there is no reason to force Signpost decisions to be made by community members who do not work on the Signpost. Anyone can create a project to aggregate news and opinions in whatever ways they wish, and they can seek community approval to publicize their project in ways similar to the Signpost.
Coming at this from another direction, it's hard to get volunteers to write on a schedule. It's also hard to get a group of volunteers to make consensus decisions on a schedule. Put these two things together and it's really hard to put out a regularly scheduled periodical with crowd-sourced editorial control. Of course it's not necessary to have a regular schedule for a news feed; you can, for example, have a Reddit-like model where content is put out there and then crowd-sourced feedback pushes it up or down. If someone wants to do that within English Wikipedia, more power to them! But I wouldn't impose this way of working on a group of volunteers who wasn't interested in it. isaacl (talk) 06:10, 1 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you for stepping in Smallbones. Anthere (talk)

Getting humorous about the serious (i.e. random break)

Your irony about childish locker room jokes for Signpost is misplaced. I would love to read some childish locker room jokes in Signpost which deal with Wikipedia. I would also love to see some adult jokes in Signpost which deal with Wikipedia. I would love to see some elitist snobbish jokes which deal with Wikipedia. Signpost is the herald of Wikipedia, isn't it? How about a competition for the best childish joke dealing with Wikipedians?

Do I need to continue convincing you that there is plenty of humor without insulting anybody? Staszek Lem (talk) 21:31, 1 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

OK, let's give it a shot:
  • An inclusionist and a deletionist walk into a bar. The deletionist rips out the taps for any beers not nationally advertised and all the bottles not on the top shelf. The inclusionist offers everyone a lukewarm diet Dr. Pepper. They both ask the bartender for a donation.
  • In Russia, the Kremlin reads what you write on Wikipedia. In America, the Kremlin writes what you read on Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia: You have two cows. After discussion, your neighbors reach consensus that the cows belong to them, dismissing your objections per WP:1AM. You call the police. The police give the cows to whomever touched them last.
  • A Wikipedian and a vandal are stranded on a desert island. On the first day, the Wikipedian builds a raft. At night the vandal destroys it. The second day, the Wikipedian tells the vandal that one or more of his contributions to the raft did not appear constructive, and rebuilds the raft. The vandal destroys it. The third day, the Wikipedian asks the vandal to please refrain from making unconstructive changes to the raft, and rebuilds it again. The vandal destroys it. The fourth day, the Wikipedian tells the vandal to please stop destroying the raft, and that if he destroys the raft again, he may not be allowed to participate in the building of the raft. The Wikipedian rebuilds the raft again and the vandal destroys it again. On the fifth day an admin arrives with the navy, announces that nobody can build a raft until everyone on the island agrees on whether or not a raft should be built, and sails off.
Levivich 02:51, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Levivich: that raft joke is hilarious. Well done! Bradv🍁 03:33, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
BOOM 👏👏👏 JFG talk 20:53, 3 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Top 10 Ways to troll a Wikipedian:
  1. Create a numbered list
  1. And then ...
  1. Wait for ...
  1. The payoffs!
  1. Muahaha!!!
  1. Is this 10 yet?
  1. No! This is the 7th item![citation needed]
  1. Yes! This is the 10th item![undue weight? ]
Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 03:27, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK, here's my top ten ways to troll. isaacl (talk) 04:02, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Q: How many genderqueer people does it take to write a Signpost article?
A: None, as none feels welcome here.
-- (talk) 04:16, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Could probably say the same about right-leaning conservative people. -- œ 05:14, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nah, people like Fae think those are actual Nazis that need to be banned. (talk) 17:37, 2 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So, for Fæ is OK to insult both genderqueer people and the whole Wikipedia community. What about zillons of articles written in wikipedia on LGBT topics? Why writing for Signpost would be impossible? If one "feels" unwelcome, then you better file an ANI/I complaint, because THAT would be a gross violation of Wikipedia ways, and the complaint will certainly be taken seriously. Staszek Lem (talk) 19:19, 12 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh, wait, here's a good one:
Q: How many tsk-tsking doctrinaire genderqueer thought police does it take to change a light bulb?
A: That's not funny!
And if you change change a light bulb to screw in a light bulb, the permutations are really endless. EEng 03:09, 22 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'll try one from Stasek Lem's list above:

Well, you can see why I won't be writing the humour column.

@Levivich: Please write 20 more jokes similar to the above. Include at least one about Wikilawyers. Submit to The Signpost, and we'll have next month's Humour column. Smallbones(smalltalk) 02:37, 3 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

After a long trial, a wikilawyer's client is found guilty. "REVERT!" announces the wikilawyer.
The judge laughs. "What? There's no rule that allows a 'revert'." The wikilawyer shrugs. "NOTBUREAUCRACY."
"Of course it is," says the judge, pointing to the bookshelf behind him. "This is a court of law. We have statutes, regulations ..." The wikilawyer interrupts: "OTHERSTUFFEXISTS!"
The judge grows impatient. "That's enough! I'm declaring you out of order!" The wikilawyer waives his hand dismissively: "IGNOREALLRULES."
"This is my courtroom," says the judge, "and I'm in charge here!" "{{Citation needed}}," responds the wikilawyer, wagging his finger.
The judge opens one of the books and points to a page. "Very well, it's right here, see?" The wikilawyer takes out a pen and crosses out the paragraph.
The judge jumps out of her chair. "Just what do you think you're doing?!" she demands.
The wikilawyer smiles, "ANYONECANEDIT." Levivich 05:44, 17 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

How many Wikipedians does it take to change a light bulb? 5 - One to notice the bulb is out and tag it for changing, one to install a new bulb, two others to argue over what color/type of bulb would be the best replacement, and an admin to revert to the broken status-quo bulb until they can find a consensus. Argento Surfer (talk) 13:10, 3 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  1. There comes a time on Wikipedia when it's important to know when to stop arguing with editors, and simply let them be wrong.
  2. Do you want to make money from Wikipedia? It's easy! Log out and go to work!
  3. Wikipedia: where anyone can edit and enjoy the benefits of income equality.

Atsme Talk 📧 01:48, 10 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I haven't read the wall of comments that precedes. But apropos to Smallbones's concluding comment, may I just add that before anyone starts running to ANI, try to AGF and contact the editor first. These things don't always have to escalate. Really. Let's try to be a community. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:09, 12 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Do you have a reliable source which states that all aggies do not object to aggie jokes? (BTW if you find ones, you may even write "Aggie joke" article!) Staszek Lem (talk) 22:57, 19 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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